Can a puppy visit to a veterinarian be an indicator for adult behavior?

Puppybehavior

I admit my favorite part of my job is seeing puppies for their first vaccination visit. They are often full of energy and many times have the friendliest disposition. Puppy breath, who doesn’t love puppy breath. It is also interesting observing the different personalities of these puppies. While most puppies are friendly on their first visit, there are some who have exhibited behaviors that are of concern to me if they continue as an adult. I often see some of these puppies as adults confirming my concerns. Not all bad puppy behavior is guaranteed adult behavior, but some may serve as red flags. Recognizing these behaviors early and addressing them through training may help avoid frustration later. Here are some common undesirable behaviors that I have observed with puppies that often become issues during adulthood.

Hyperactivity

These are puppies that won’t sit still for anything. As soon as they come in the room they jump on me, the owner, and anybody else in the room. They are basically moving non-stop. When my assistant is holding them for the vaccines it is like trying to hit a moving target. This behavior is sometimes cute as a puppy, but if that puppy becomes a hyperactive 60-100 pound dog , that can be a problem. I often see these puppies become dogs who are difficult to control and train. Unfortunately, these are the dogs that become owner surrenders, end up running away, or are at high risk of being hit by cars. Starting with basic obedience training especially with these cases are very important. It is also important that these puppies are leashed trained as soon as possible. Gentle leader head collars are a type of leash that goes around the mouth and the neck allowing more control of your dog’s head. This type of collar can be especially helpful with puppies with hyperactivity. Neutering may help this behavior in some dogs but it is definitely not a guarantee. Consistent and proper training will be the primary remedy for hyperactivity.

A mouthy puppy

A mouthy puppy does not necessarily mean it will be aggressive. But I have seen many mouthy puppies who become destructive as they get older. Owners complain about chewed up shoes, carpet, wood, and other personal items. Curbing this behavior quickly as possible is important especially if you value your personal items. If you have children, make sure they don’t encourage this behavior. One way to discourage this behavior is when your puppy is mouthy you tell it a firm “no” then ignore for a moment. You then give it attention until the biting starts again, then repeat. Since puppies love attention, they are learning through positive reinforcement that not biting is a good thing. You can also redirect them with a toy or encourage them to do another activities if biting becomes excessive. Two common mistakes that owner makes in attempt to correct this behavior is to punish by hitting and to grab the muzzle. This is not recommended because it can increase aggression or anxiety in some dogs.

Putting things in their mouth

I have some puppies who walk in the exam room and act like a vacuum. They put almost anything they find on the floor in their mouth. Some of these puppies end up being my future foreign body surgery patients. With these puppies you truly have to puppy proof your house. These puppies can’t have any access to toys, medication, or any other objects that could be hazardous if it goes in the mouth. If you don’t pick up after yourself, you may find yourself in the veterinary emergency clinic.

Fearful

Most puppies are excited when they see new people. However, they are some who exhibit fear when they are exposed to new situations or people. When I see these puppies, they often have their tails between their legs, and may urinate when touched. They may also sit there and tremble during the whole exam. If these behaviors occur during the first puppy visit then it may be a concern. Puppies with fearful tendencies may become adults with anxiety. This may include separation and sound anxiety. During an anxious moment, you may need to calm the puppy down by taking time with the puppy and offering treats. Also exposing your puppy to as much stimuli with socialization can also be a great help.

Aggression

Fortunately I don’t see aggression in puppies too often, but when I do it is often due to a puppy coming from an abusive situation. Most of the time it is due to being fearful of strangers, but I have seen a few instances where the puppy is aggressive with their owner. Addressing aggressiveness will depend on the specific cause for it. But seeing it this early, it is important to address it quickly. Having an aggressive dog is definitely more a challenge.

Dominance

These are puppies that are generally friendly, but tend to protest when anything is done to them. This includes restraint of any sort, some don’t like to be held, examination of the mouth, or clipping of their nails. They protest by vocalizing, urinating, and sometimes biting. Establishing dominance with these puppies is important. This does not necessarily require force, but you need to establish good and bad behavior. Basic puppy training is important for establishment. As puppies are often motivated by treats and attention these can be used to reinforce good behavior. An example of this is a puppy who dislikes nail trims. You can try to calm the puppy down with attention before the nail trim. Once calm you can begin the nail trim and reward the puppy if it demonstrates good behavior.

 

Conclusion

Remember these observations are not based on a scientific study. These are just my personal observations based on my experience. In fact many puppies tend not to show their true personality until after 6 months of age. Obviously there are many factors that can shape a personality of the puppy during its lifetime. But if you are seeing early signs of undesired behavior, it is important you work with a trainer to help correct these. Having a trainer work directly with you is the best option since they can get to know who you and your dog are. There are also training videos online targeting specific behavioral issues if the latter is not an option.

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